Individuals born in the US but raised in Hispanic households experience a distinctive cultural blend that defies simple labels. Despite declining immigration numbers, the percentage of Hispanic Americans is projected to represent 27.5% of the total American population by 20601. That doesn't mean people will not keep crossing the border. It just means crossing as a documented and undocumented immigrant has become more challenging. It also shows that Hispanics comprise a significant chunk of the country's population.
This article delves into the multifaceted identity of people raised in Hispanic homes in the United States, highlighting their rich cultural backgrounds, language abilities, and the challenges they may face in society.
Growing Up in Two Worlds
Growing up in the United States within Mexican, Cuban, Puerto Rican, Colombian, Salvatorian, or other Hispanic households offers a unique perspective. These individuals enjoy the best of both worlds, with fluency in both English and Spanish, an appreciation for diverse cuisines, music, and traditions, and access to better opportunities than their predecessors. This dual upbringing instills a sense of belonging to a larger, tight-knit family1.
Navigating Dual Identities
Many Latinos are instilled with respect, love for family, and pride in their heritage. However, they also face the pressure to "be more American" or "be more Latino/a," a complex and bittersweet experience. It takes time to embrace the idea that it's perfectly natural to straddle both worlds. This unique blend of cultures is a gift that enriches their lives and the American cultural landscape.
Language and Discrimination
A clear instance of discrimination against Hispanics happens when they speak Spanish in public or private places - even though there are 22 US cities and towns with a higher population of Spanish speakers2. The question "Can you get fired for speaking Spanish at work?" generates a staggering 71,600,000 results on Google. Legally, employers cannot forbid workers from speaking Spanish or any other language on the job due to federal laws prohibiting national origin discrimination (3). However, social common sense and tolerance often need to catch up to legal protections.
Sadly, that doesn't necessarily apply to social common sense and tolerance on a daily basis. That is also why some people try to hide their accents or don't transmit their mother tongue to their kids.
Challenges of Cultural Identity
A few years ago, Alma Flores-Pérez, a Linguistics Student from Stanford, mentioned in an interview with NBCnews that she's been called "whitewashed" because of her lighter skin tone and that she feels that even though it's not always true, there are still a big group of people that believe speaking perfect English will help them not face hardship. She continued, "…at the same time, I've come to see the importance of speaking Spanish or at least trying to claim that as our own and not be ashamed when you do speak Spanish, but also not being ashamed if you weren't taught it, because that wasn't necessarily your choice"4. Flores-Pérez highlights the importance of embracing one's heritage and language without shame. Cultural backgrounds should not be a source of competition but rather a celebration of individual identity.
Let's consider her perspective - sometimes, clichés do play out in real life, reminding us of the familiar bonds that connect us. Much like the endearing video calls we witnessed between Gloria Pritchett and Manny Delgado, portrayed by Sofía Vergara and Rico Rodriguez in the hit TV show Modern Family, our own lives are marked by the enduring closeness we share with our families, even when geographical distances separate us. Just as these fictional characters displayed love, warmth, and connection across the miles, many of us can relate to the heartwarming feeling of maintaining strong family ties, regardless of physical separation. In an increasingly globalized world, technology has become a bridge that allows us to nurture these connections, much like the fictional family on the screen. But also, you shouldn't be ashamed of what your cultural background is because you don't need to "blend in" or "speak lower," you can keep on being your awesome self that doesn't harm others and keep in mind that it's not a competition on who is more Latino/a or more American. Your traditions and both your languages are just a part of your identity, and you should celebrate them.
Sonia Sotomayor: The First Hispanic American Woman on the US Supreme Court
Sonia Sotomayor, an inspirational figure in American history, is a name synonymous with breaking barriers and achieving greatness. Born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents, she became the first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court. Justice Sotomayor's journey is a testament to her unwavering determination and dedication to justice. Her remarkable career is marked by a commitment to defending marginalized communities' rights and upholding the Constitution's principles. Through her jurisprudence, she continues to leave an indelible mark on the legal landscape and is a source of inspiration for aspiring Hispanic lawyers and advocates nationwide.
As the Hispanic community continues to shape the cultural tapestry of America, it's essential to recognize and celebrate the diversity that enriches the nation's identity. The blend of cultures, languages, and traditions is a testament to the enduring strength of the American melting pot. It reminds us that the United States has always been a land of immigrants, where different backgrounds and experiences come together to create something more significant than the sum of its parts.
A rich blend of cultures, languages, and traditions marks the journey of individuals raised in Hispanic households in the US. It's a unique experience that should be celebrated, not suppressed. As Hispanics continue to shape the cultural tapestry of America, it's essential to recognize and embrace the diversity that enriches the nation's identity. This cultural diversity is not a challenge but a strength that helps define what it means to be American in the 21st century.